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Have We Seen The End Of The NFL Preseason?

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If nothing else, COVID-19 has certainly changed what “normal” looks like in the sports world.

Los Angeles Rams v Houston Texans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

With the NFL’s recent announcement that the 2020 preseason will only feature two games instead of the ‘normal’ four games, followed by the NFLPA’s movement to abolish this year’s preseason altogether, the elephant in the room is: Have we seen the last of the preseason as we know it?

For many, the preseason is the first taste of pro football after the offseason, a chance to see the newly remade squads take the field, glimpses of rookies, newly acquired free agents, coaching changes, and all that. For others, it’s a “wait to cringe” time, as all too often star players go down with season-ending injuries in what amounts to “meaningless games,” as happened to Houston’s Lamar Miller last year.

Many fans have decried the existence of four preseason games for years now, especially with the rise of inter-team scrimmages and joint practices. In the most recent iteration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the regular season will gain one game, moving from 16 to 17, and lose one preseason game, moving from four to three, beginning in 2021. But what about 2020?

ESPN’s Sarah Barshop recently quoted J.J. Watt on the topic and the star Texan had this to say:

“If the doctors and the (NFL)PA doctors decide that it’s not in the best safety interest of the players to have them, then we don’t have to. But I also at the same time think about undrafted guys and the guys who make a roster in the fourth preseason game and how special that is and how many opportunities would be missed from that. So I’m on both sides of the fence.

I think obviously as a vet, personally do I think that preseason games for somebody in my situation is absolutely necessary? I would say, I don’t think so. But I think there are a whole bunch of people who need those opportunities and who live for those opportunities. I mean, it can literally change a life. So I see, I see the other side of it where somebody could literally have their entire dream come true because of those games, so that’s a very difficult debate to have.”

Ideas have been tossed out of having two preseason games that are strictly for rookies, or those new to a team, or players deemed in dire need of reps. Just how that would look for one team that has little roster churn from year to year versus a team that cleans house remains to be seen. What would this look like for new Texans Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Jonathan Greenard, Ross Blacklock, and David Johnson?

While there are still few answers and lots of questions as to what the 2020 NFL pre/regular/postseason will look like, the time for players to report is less than two weeks away (July 25th). The need to make those decisions amidst all sorts of uncertainty and COVID-19 numbers that are predominantly going in the wrong direction is certainly not an enviable task.

For the sake of today’s discussion, let’s focus solely on the future of the NFL preseason. What do you think? Is the need for exhibition games no longer valid? Can teams get the same benefits from joint practices and inter-squad scrimmages? Should the NFL move forward with only two preseason games for the foreseeable future? Or should they hold the line set in the new CBA and stick to having three starting in 2021?